Piecing A Love Story

Sometimes a project can be like a pot of great marinara sauce- it can’t be rushed.  Give it time to simmer, and you’ll come away with something memorable.  I’ve been working on a project like that this week.

I don’t think I’ve shared this exciting news with you yet… I’m SO honored (beyond words, really) to be working with the Denver Art Museum on their upcoming textiles exhibition, Spun, which will be coming to the museum May 19-Sept 22, 2013.  In addition to some live quilting demonstrations and a community involvement project, I’m also sewing a few samples for display in one of their permanent exhibits….a VERY intimidating/thrilling task, to say the least.  Anyway, one of the pieces they asked me to make is a personal inspiration piece using a non-traditional quilting fabric, so I chose to use some WWII military parachute fabric that my grandfather brought home from France after D-Day in 1945.

Piecing A Love Story - 1 fabric

My grandfather was a US Army sergeant who served for 4.5 years, and was in the 3rd wave of men who landed via boat on Omaha Beach, June 6th, 1944, during the Allied invasion of German-occupied France.  He was always such a hands-on, detailed-oriented man.  Spent his entire life as an engineer, designing kitchen appliances, making intricate working clocks of every shape and size, tinkering with old cars and tractors, and even designing and building the modest midwest home he would raise his family in.  So it was no surprise to me when I learned that his role in the war was repairing broken-down Jeeps that had been damaged by enemy fire.  He always was Mr. Fix-It.  Never a problem he couldn’t solve, with some thoughtfulness, and whole lot of tinkering.  “Can’t never did anything” was the motto he repeated, time and time again.

Piecing A Love Story - 8

It also was no surprise then, that such a thoughtful man,  focused on the little details, and on frugality and preparedness, at just 25 years old and serving  amidst horrors and heartache that I can’t begin to fathom…that this man thought to purchase yards and yards of gorgeous silky nylon cream material, literally, parachute fabric, knowing his future bride would certainly need something to sew a wedding gown from.  He hadn’t even met her yet, but already he was thinking of her, and ways he could provide for her.

Piecing A Love Story - 7 wedding

I’d been mulling this piece around in my head for weeks (not to mention the fabric itself…tried to build the nerve to cut into it for years) , but it wasn’t until QuiltCon in Penny Layman’s class on advanced foundation paper piecing design, that the wheels of inspiration really started turning.

Piecing A Love Story - plan

So I decided that this piece was going to use this special fabric to make another dress- a dress to honor my grandfather- his service, his dreams, his thoughtful, frugal, simple way of life that I can only hope carries on in some way through me.  And also to honor their marriage- 60 years, til death did they part.  A marriage worthy of emulation.

Piecing A Love Story - 2 full piece

Piecing A Love Story - 4 close up

Piecing A Love Story - 5 close up

I chose the red vintage pin dots because his division was called “The Big Red One.”  And the borders came from a bundle I curated for Sew Lux Fabrics this month called “Rue Charlot”- a soft gathering of classic prints that remind me of Paris in early Spring.   When my husband and I vacationed there, forever ago it seems, we stayed in a little private garden flat on a street called Rue Charlot.  If you’re interested in this bundle, you can pick one up here.

Piecing A Love Story - 6 bundle

Piecing A Love Story - 9

What a special piece this turned out to be.  One of those projects, that if given enough time and “simmering,” somehow manages to design itself.  Thanks Grandpa :)  This one’s for you.


  1. Jo Ann R. says:

    What a lovely tribute to the memory of your grandfather. I never knew my grandfathers. They died years before I was ever born. Thank you for sharing. Jo Ann

  2. Jodi Wyss says:

    Amy, what an inspiration you are!! It is a beautiful dress!!

  3. Oh my word! I love this story! What great history. And the fact that the fabric is the same name of the flat you stayed in? love it. Can’t wait to see the final piece. I may even go when I come to Denver this summer to see it in person! I should take Nora Petty with me :)

  4. Can you share where you got the paper pieced dress pattern? It’s lovely!

    • Hi Cherie- I designed the pattern :). So glad you like it!

      • It’s absolutely gorgeous! Is it available for purchase or download anywhere? I did some searching around, but didn’t see it.

        • Unfortunately I’m not able to offer it as a download right now, since its a custom piece for the museum, but I will definitely let you know if I’m ever available to offer the pattern to readers I’m so glad you like it! Cheers! ;)

  5. Amy, your creation brought tears to my eyes. The history and sentiment of the fabric is overwhelming. What a beautiful tribute to both of your grandparents that can be passed down through generations.

    • ole chook says:

      I could not say it any better than this :O))

    • Brought tears to my eyes also. I felt it extra deep, because my father was a paratrooper in France during WWII. I have a small remnant of his actual silky, creamy parachute. So happy it was chosen for the museum. What a beautiful piece and tribute!

  6. This is amazing! Love the story, fabric is dreamy and your little dress is beautiful ! They were a very nice looking couple. Congrats on the honor of being ask to do this.

  7. A heartfelt, loving, and beautiful tribute to your grandfather. I was misty eyed reading this post. You are amazing, Amy.

  8. Such an amazing story behind the lovely pieced dress you have made!

  9. Wow. This is just gorgeous and I love a piece with a story.

  10. That is beautiful, and the perfect piece for a permament exhibition, it shows the true heart of quilting and sewing, and the importance of honouring our family history! :o)

  11. What a wonderful story ! I love the way and the idea to bring back this parachute fabric ! I’ll think to him next time I’ll go to Omaha beach, not so far from my home in Normandie…

  12. Just beautiful! Thanks for sharing such a special story.

  13. Amy,
    What a beautiful story. Both you and ur hubby certainly have a way with words!!

  14. Thank you so much for sharing with us! What a wonderful story!

  15. Hi Amy,
    Thanks for sharing that heartwarming story of your Grandfather. Your block is very simple, yet so beautiful! Congratulations on the commission and I look forward to seeing it here on your blog.

  16. Thank you so much for sharing that Amy. What a beautiful story and such a beautiful and inspirational block. Congrats on working with the Denver Art Museum but very well deserved. xo

  17. Hi Amy, another beautiful post and what a wonderful story. Congratulations on your work with Denver Art Museum – how exciting. My Grandad was a RM survivor in the 2nd WW. I am the Secretary of the HMS Dunedin Society, we keep alive the memories of not only the survivors but those who lost their lives that day. Sadly he died before the Society was formed but I know he would be really proud of us all. It is a truly amazing story and one of so many sadly that war brings. It is so important for us to keep the memories and stories alive so future generations realise the courage and bravery of the men that fought to give us a better life. http://www.hmsdunedin.co.uk

    I love your work Amy, your little dress is so beautiful the whole piece is perfect.

    Karen x

  18. What a beautiful story! My grandfather served as a mechanic for a unit of medics during the war. Your paper-pieced dress is fabulous, it almost looks like something you could take off the hanger and wear.

  19. What a beautiful tribute to your grandfather and grandmother. Also, congratulations on being selected to display an art piece in the museum. Your paper-piecing design is so creative. I like how your mind works to bring something from the past together with fabrics of the present and have each fabric represent something so meaningful.

    If, I get to Denver this summer the museum will be on my list of must stop places.

  20. WOW!
    1. That dress is gorgeous!
    2. Can’t wait to see the finished quilt!
    3. Such a great idea…keep us updated?! :)

  21. Joyce Mitchell says:

    Lovely story – lovely quilt. Thanks for sharing.

  22. Marilyn Shade says:

    This is such a lovely piece, a loving tribute to your grandparents. Everyone else has already said it so well! My father served in WWII in north Africa and then Italy, at Anzio. He was a medic in the Army. There have been many stories passed down in our family about that time, and our mother’s part at home, staying in touch with the other wives throughout the war and after. My older brothers were only 5 and 2 when Dad enlisted. There must have been many bridal gowns made of parachute fabric then! Mom’s name was Charlotte. I had to get some of that fabric…you have inspired me.

  23. Amy, you are amazing and your grandfather was certainly a hunk! And your grandma beautiful! I know he would be so proud of you for your accomplishments. My Dad was a POW in Japan for 42 months having been on Corregidor in the Phillipines when it fell. Not sure a quilt honoring that service would be something I would want to do.

  24. Swoon! That is so beautiful–the love story, the fabric, the pattern. Every quilt tells a story, and this one could fill a book.

  25. Thanks for sharing your story. What a beautiful piece came out of this story :)

  26. June Winters says:

    A wonderful story ~ thanks so much for sharing it!

  27. Iraelia Pernas says:

    It’s a beautiful post and lovely iidea. I have a friend who is getting married tomorrow and it would be nice to make a block similar to your with the wedding dress motif. Do you have the paper piecing template? Can you share it? Please reply to cuypernas@gmail.com

    Congratution for a magnificent creation!

  28. Love your story. My father would have been the same age as your grandfather. He died in a car accident when I was 22, but I remember growing up alway hearing him say” CAN’T never did anything” Thanks for helping me remember. I will definitely get to the Art Museum in Denver this summer.

  29. Your talents never cease to amaze me. What a beautiful idea for a rememberence of your grandfather. Beautiful story,, beautiful block. The fabrics look perfect together. I happen to have a 1940’s vintage hula ensemble that my father brought back from WWII for my mother. Now if you have ideas on how to incorporate that into a quilt……….
    As one of my co workers said the other day – “You rock!!!”

  30. Oh Amy, what a beautiful story and a beautiful block to honor your grandfather. You are very fortunate to have such rich details of his life – many of us didn’t really know our grandparents. Your sewing talents are amazing and your ability to put your heart into your words is inspiring. Big hugs!!

  31. Heather Shore says:

    I love this story and the quilt! I wish I had some fabric like that from my grandparents.

  32. I don’t as a rule like to start my days with tears in my eyes but I will be thinking of your post all day and hope to get back to reading the other comments later today. You are SO lucky to have known your Grandfather and I hope your Grandmother that well.

  33. Stunning paper piecing. The story is beautiful as well. I read it to my mom and she told me my grandpa did the same thing and my grandma made us kids our christening gowns out of it too. That was news to me. Thanks for sharing . Hugs

  34. I teared up as I read your description of my father, too. He was always building and fixing toys, making signs for Girl Scout camp, building rocking horses for us children, corner floor length china cupboard for my mom–anything she asked for, he would make. Talk about recycling, they never threw things away, they redesigned or rebuilt it to work. He built 2 homes from scratch himself. When he was 17 and at Allegheny College he enlisted in the Navy and because he was so young, they sent him to California to be a medic to treat the soldiers injured in the Pacific. So he always nursed our cuts and splinters, too. He returned after the war to finish school and marry my mother, a biology major who had graduated while writing to him every day. Their wedding picture looks so similar to your grandparents pic walking down the aisle. What a resourceful group that generation was!
    What a beautiful tribute, a beautiful square, and now the great grandchildren can have something special designed for them with silk parachute fabric from France.
    Tears still flowing, Carolyn

  35. What a nice story Amy. Your grandpa was a very handsome man. Love the dress you designed for the museum. See you next week!

  36. pam girk says:

    Such a lovely story with a quilt to match. Thank you for sharing.

  37. Debbie Simmons says:

    Thank you for sharing such a lovely story! Love the paper-pieced dress you’ve designed.
    I can’t wait to see the finish!

  38. Eileen DiPietro says:

    Beautiful, beautiful story and tribute to your grandfather. It brought me to tears thinking of my own father who passed away on my 17th birthday. He was so immensely proud of my sewing talent that he managed to save up for my very own first sewing machine (not an easy task when you are the father of ten children ). He was actually laid to rest in a necktie that I made for him. I still have that machine 42 years later still in working order. Thank you so much for sharing your family history…

  39. Amy, what a beautiful story and awesome way to remember your grandfather! Maybe the Museum would put together of book of the patterns it could sell in it’s gift shop….looking forward to seeing the rest of your Museum project.

  40. Jan W in TX says:

    What a wonderful tribute to your grandparents Amy! The design is just gorgeous! And what an honor for you to be a part of the Museum’s exhibition as well. Thanks for sharing your story.

  41. Laura Hall says:

    simply outstanding!

  42. Amy, what an amazing man your grandfather was! I never heard of man buying the fabric for his wife’s wedding dress before he even met her! What a sweet, nostalgic, and heartwarming story and how really lovely of you to bring it to this pretty and special project. You’ve been blessed to have such a lovely example in them and to be able to commemorate them in this way. :-) It was well worth the read today!!

  43. Cheri Fleming says:

    Great story. My father was a P 38 pilot in WWII. He was shot down and killed in France and is still
    there buried in Epinal American cemetery. I was 3 months old. He never saw me. I’m so happy your wonderful Grandfather came home and lived such a wonderful, productive life! I love the piece you made. Your babies & girls are adorable!


  44. What an amazing story, love!

  45. This is lovely beyond words, Amy. What a loving tribute to your grandparents, and a beautiful family heirloom. Excellent work!

  46. Biz Burgess says:

    Amy -you know I am a fan but this may be your greastest piece! A lovely tribute to such a lovely – looking couple on their day.

  47. Congratulations on such an exciting project for you. I love your grandfather’s story and the quilt itself.

    I remember reading somewhere that parachute silk was used a lot in the war for making ladies underwear, as well as wedding dresses.

  48. Amy, your beautiful tribute to your grandparents shows that you were the perfect choice to work with the museum.

  49. Wonderful story and block. Beautiful pattern and full of history. Thanks for sharing such an emotive story.

  50. I love what you made with your grandfather’s fabric! Thanks for sharing his story!

  51. I have my wedding dress from 30 odd years ago. I saved if for my daughter but sad to say when she gets married April 2014 she will not be wearing it. She has decided to buy a new one. So I was trying to decide on how to use it.. Might be an idea here.

  52. I’m tearing up after reading your story. What a wonderful tribute to your grandfather. Your block is exquisite; I hope your story is also shown at the exhibit. Thanks for sharing!!!!

  53. Debbie Weishaar says:

    Absolutely Gorgeous! How excited to work with such nice fabrics as well as the parachute fabric your grandfather bought for his future bride to make her dress with. You made them both very proud with this piece. Thanks for sharing the story about your grandfather! We lived in Belgium for 3 years and had the chance to drive down to Normandy and visit the beaches, cemetery, war museums, etc and it was well worth the visit. So much history there!

  54. ole chook says:

    A beautiful story, and very inspiring for life and creativity.
    Great job on the block :O)
    And awesome for you to be working with the museum – soooo super cool.

  55. Such a wonderful story, and a beautiful tribute!

  56. That is such an incredible story behind a really beautiful and meaningful block. Congrats on having the amazing opportunity to work with the Denver Art Museum! That’s a huge honor Amy and I’m really excited for you! I wish I could come see the exhibits and demonstrations in person.

  57. That is a wonderful work of art, and a lovely story.

  58. Oh Amy! What a sweet and heart tugging story. Thank you so much for sharing it. Your tribute to your grandfather is lovely, and more so because of the deep thought that went into it. My Dad served in WWII – part of the time in Europe. He never talked much about his experiences, so I did quite a bit of research after he passed. It was wonderful to meet the man he was then through that search, and wonderful to meet your grandfather through your story.

  59. Gorgeous and touching – beyond words!

  60. April Reding says:

    Congrats on your invitation from the Denver Art Museum. Thanks so much for sharing this quilt and story. Your story is wonderful on so many levels. It honors love, family and heritage… the fabric of all our lives. I can’t think of a better or more appropriate way of telling this story than through a quilt using the parachute fabric from history and the red vintage pin dots from your grandparent’s time juxtaposed with the Rue Charlot from your personal story life. This piece will touch the hearts of many people as it has already touched mine. Thank-you
    I am looking forward to your next post.

  61. LOVE the paper piece pattern you created to honor your grandfather. It’s a beautiful illustration, and an even more beautiful block. Awesome job. :D

  62. Sharon Brennan says:

    Beautiful! Just beautiful! You are amazing, Amy!!

  63. Wow – such a moving post, filled with goodness and beauty! I love what you did for your block, and the story will be shared for many years. The block is utterly charming.

  64. AMAZING! One of my favorite posts yet! Such a treasure!

  65. A lovely love story Amy. And a handsome couple they make – your grandparents. I can see your grandfather in you – you get his looks from him perhaps. That is an inspired block – has a bit of everything from your story. Tell me can this kind of nylon/synthethics be used only in foundation piecing. Will it be too difficult to use with traditional blocks?

  66. Andrea Williams says:

    Amy, I always look forward to your posts and no more so than today. Aside from it being my birthday I am spending it putting together a very special quilt. My husband’s grandparents will be celebrating their 6th wedding anniversary in April (nothing like a quilt in a month and hand quilted to boot)… I owe my love of quilts to her and to you. without you both I never would be brave enough to step outside my comfort zone. I choose 30’s fabric in small floral prints with your Greek cross across the miles in mind. Now that my tears are dry from your post and stunning block…i am ready to sew until my quilt top is complete or the school bus comes.
    Yours Andrea

  67. Samantha says:

    That is seriously wonderful- what a great tribute! I can’t wait for the exhibit…

  68. Wonderful block, and a fabulous tribute! Also, their wedding photo is divine!!!

  69. Lovely…

  70. This tugged at my heartstrings, Amy. My Frannie&Nonnie have 53 years and counting. What a great idea to honor such an inspiring and all-too-rare thing as a long and successful marriage and family <3

  71. Oh it’s gorgeous, and what a nice tribute to your grandfather (also WTG to him for even thinking of bringing that fabric home!)

  72. I had the pleasure of learning from you on the craftsy BOM. You are such a wonderful person so you deserve this recognition and you have provided many beautiful, heartfelt quilts to be displayed for all of us to admire. i can understand you being proud, heck i only know you through this and i feel proud for you. May God continue to bless you and your family. Thank you for your caring enough to pass this on to strangers to learn what you know. are you ever gonna make a fabric line? or have you? you are an honest, hardworking mom and your hubby an angel. i can’t wait to see what’s next. this dress is gorgeous.

  73. Kathleen says:

    How lovely – the exhibit in Denver sounds so amazing, I may even have to take a special trip out to see it. Your story and your mini quilt are lovely. Thanks for sharing

  74. I saw your wedding dress mini quilt at DAM. It stood out from all the rest and is one of my favorite pieces in the exhibit. Just lovely in every way.

  75. Zoë's Mimi says:

    I know this WAY after your post, but the parachute material reminded me of the lady in Converse, TX, who used the parachute her then-fiance carried out of Europe, after having used it to jump out of the plane, to make her own wedding gown. The dress is in the Smithsonian Museum. She has original newspaper articles that were written about her dress and the life of the parachute. Very cool!

  76. This is the greatest! Your grandpa was a special man indeed!


  1. […] 17, 2013 Leave a Comment Hi ya’ll!  Well, yesterday was a love story, and today’s all about machines!  I’m excited to be one of the first stops on the Meet […]

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